- Built-in 802.11b wireless networking
- good battery life
- reasonably portable.
- No IEEE 1394 or video-out ports
- short standard warranty.
HP's range of OmniBook xt6050 notebooks is designed to fill a market niche between its corporate-orientated (and relatively expensive) OmniBook 6x00 series and its new-technology-driven Pavilion systems. The result is a stripped-down but still very functional system that should appeal to corporate customers with a eye for cost savings, as well as small/medium businesses seeking a dependable mobile computing platform.
Our review sample, which costs £1,456 (ex. VAT), was based around Intel's 0.13-micron Mobile Pentium III Processor-M (MPIII-M), running at 933MHz and featuring 512KB of Level 2 cache and Enhanced SpeedStep power-saving technology. The chipset is Intel's 830MG -- the value-orientated member of the 830 family, with an integrated graphics chip that commandeers up to 48MB of the system's 256MB complement of PC133 SDRAM (which is expandable to 1GB). The xt6050 range includes models with Mobile Celeron as well as MPIII-M processors.
The OmniBook xt6050 looks and feels solid but unspectacular, the slate-grey system measuring 31.5 by 26.1 by 3.6cm, weighing 2.69kg (3.06kg with the AC adapter) and featuring a 14.1in. XGA-resolution screen. It's a two-spindle notebook, with an 8-speed DVD-ROM drive in the single front-mounted modular bay and a 20GB, 4,200rpm Toshiba drive inside. The modular bay will accept a number of alternative units (all swappable with other OmniBooks), including CD-ROM, CD-RW, DVD/CD-RW, Zip and floppy. You can't fit a second battery into the modular bay, but fortunately battery life from the standard Li-ion unit is sufficiently good that few users are likely to yearn for this capability.
Design-wise, the OmniBook xt6050 is well thought-out. The 88-key keyboard is comfortable and responsive, with a sensible layout -- although labelling the PgUp and PgDn keys with icons confused us at first. Unlike on higher-end OmniBooks, the xt6050 doen't feature dual pointing devices, navigation being accomplished using just the four-button touchpad. As well as the customary mouse and scroll buttons, there's an extra button at the top that disables it, so you don't lose track of the cursor by brushing the touchpad accidentally.
The xt6050's complement of I/O ports and expansion options covers all the bases without adding any luxuries -- you get serial, parallel, VGA, infrared, PS/2 and two USB ports, plus a docking connector. There's a pair of stacked Type II PC Card slots on the left-hand side, along with RJ-11 and RJ-45 ports for the internal 56Kbps modem and 10/100Mbps Ethernet connections respectively. Wireless Ethernet connectivity is also catered for, courtesy of an Actiontec MiniPCI 802.11b adapter -- there's a button on the left-hand side towards the front that turns this on and off to save battery life when it's not needed.
On the right-hand side are the audio ports and controls -- microphone in and headphone/speaker out, plus a hardware volume control and an audio mute button. Compared to more expensive notebooks, what's lacking is principally IEEE 1394 and video-out connectivity, which basically rules out video editing on this system.
Performance from the 933MHz MPIII-M-based xt6050 is solid rather than spectacular, although it impresses on battery life. Its Business Winstone 2001 score of 34.5 is very respectable, so it will run mainstream productivity applications at a good speed. It's more middle-of-the-road with high-end applications, delivering a Content Creation Winstone 2002 score of 18.3 (top scores are now approaching 30). Battery life from the 8-cell 3,400mAh Li-ion battery is an impressive 3 hours 28 minutes -- and that's with the processor in Maximum Performance mode and with power management turned off.
We liked HP's OmniBook xt6050 a lot, and reckon that its target market -- cost-conscious corporates and small/medium-sized businesses -- will too. It's not 'sexy' in any way, but that's not the point: it delivers a good mix of features (including built-in wireless networking) and performance, at a reasonable price.